On the fifth day of Christmas my true love gave to me…

5 Gold Rings!

For five, I wanted to touch on readings that utilize a count from one card to the next, usually referred to as card counting. This post was inspired by the count value of an ace being eleven or five (in the Opening of the Key spread), depending on how one learns.

Card counting is a way of obtaining more information from a spread, by counting a certain number of cards from a card of interest; and then continuing to count. This builds a sequence of cards which can be read in addition to the spread itself. This is not a method restricted to tarot cards.

Modern tarot readers are nowadays more familiar with card counting than used to be the case just a couple of years ago, thanks in part to the work of Paul Hughes-Barlow; and two of his mentored friends, Catherine Chapman and Douglas Gibb. (And hopefully from my blog!) For these readers, cards are all assigned a particular numerical value, and therefore the count varies during the process because the each card itself determines its counted numbers. This comes to us from the Golden Dawn method, Opening of the Key (OOTK). However, it didn’t start here.

OOTK creator Mathers wrote an earlier book, The Tarot, which includes a method that counts every seventh card. He deals every seventh card in the deck, which is effectively card counting, even though the cards aren’t already spread out. (Incidentally, he pairs cards of a horseshoe fan in this book, which OOTK students will recognize). I have seen a variant or two of this elsewhere.

Another number that is popular found counting is five. I have seen this described for use with the Lenormand deck by Treppner and by Juan Ferrer. Every fifth card of a Grand Tableau (full 36-card layout) is read in sequence to provide additional information.

Both Cicely Kent and Sepharial wrote of card counting as a way of reading the 32-playing-card deck.  The full deck would be spread out in a grid — Sepharial referred to this layout as the tablet. A card of interest would be chosen as a significator, and counting would start from there. This could be the querent, or a card like the Ace of Clubs that represented news of interest. The counted cards would build a sequence that tells a story; and each card in the count was also influenced by its neighbors.

Kent’s counting is particularly elegant: an increasing sequence starting one, three, etc.. (I was not able to determine any significance to her sequence.) Every time the sequence was complete, she’d start it again. Any and every direction could be counted; so it was very flexible according to the whim and talent of the reader. Additionally, Kent describes a counting method for use with the full deck. This method used a fixed count of nine cards.

I adapted Ms. Kent’s counting sequence to a Lenormand Grand Tableau and came up with a workable numeric counting sequence. My intent was use this as a singular method for exploring the Grand Tableua, as opposed to the many other techniques available. Unfortunately I didn’t have enough guinea pigs volunteer sitters to get validation that this method would work for me; and I moved away from the Grand Tableau in any case.

The moral of this story is that there are a variety of card counting techniques you can research and make use of. The easiest is to apply counting to a spread you already use. Pick one number and use it. Generally you will count from a card of interest and chain the counted cards into a storyline that further illuminates your question. Popular numbers seem to be five, seven or nine. Tarot readers can use the Golden Dawn numeric assignments, or also stick with a straight count. Card counting is best when there are enough cards to count, although I’ve counted with as few as five cards spread out.

One more tip: a counting sequence generally stops when a previously counted card is about to be counted again.

Do you use card counting? Do you find it helpful or not? Will you try it after reading this? Let us know in the comments!